Rotable Repairs took a variety of innovative steps to ensure it was ready for the travel sector rebound and is now on course to increase its global footprint, says general manager operations and head of technical Lionel Fearon
Like the grandiose beauty amorphophallus titanum, Rotable Repairs Limited (RRL) is evidence of a rare MRO which is blossoming into something remarkable that is not to be missed. RRL is a part of the global enterprise that is Desser Aerospace, the parent of a group of companies, which is headquartered in Montebello, California.
As with most companies in the aviation sector, in 2020 Rotable Repairs suffered heavily during the pandemic and was forced to downsize its operation. Retaining only a core team on the workshop and the minimum support staff in the offices, the operation continued, supporting its customers across all aviation segments.
As we journeyed through 2021 there were the first shoots of optimism in the market as aircraft began to fly again and the volume of work coming into the business slowly started to rise. New customers appeared on the horizon and the future was again looking prosperous. It was decided that the company would react to this and ensure that it was ready when the travel sector fully sprung back to life.
Looking at the growing customer base and with airlines such as British Airways, TUI Group and Air Malta on board, and working with manufacturers such as Boeing, Safran and Honeywell, RRL embarked on an upgrade to its entire operation.
In parallel, a search for new talent began to ensure the right skills were in the right place within the business to carry out all tasks. The layout of the workshop was reviewed as well as some of the equipment. With these new contracts came some of the latest aircraft types such as the A320neo, A350-1000 and the Boeing 787 variants. The electric brake on the 787 meant the installation of a bespoke test rig for these Safran brake units. The Michelin NZG tyres necessitated an upgrade to the bead breaker to enable the safe removal of the tyre off the wheel assembly, so the Kunz Dynamic Universal Bead Breaker (DUBB) was installed in the disassembly section of the workshop.
An additional Bauer wheel assembly station was installed to increase the capacity for assembly of wheels and there was also the installation of the Kunz Universal Torque Tool (UTT) into the brake shop to facilitate the assembly and torque of the all-aircraft brake units. Prior to this, RRL had already upgraded the hydraulic brake test rig to a new digital test rig from Bauer and replace the old spring tester, a semi-automatic digital one from Mecmesin.
All this was in place going into 2022 as RRL continued to grow the capacity, operation and talent to manage new and existing customers.
As 2022 ended, there was a new management team in place, the team on the workshop had grown close to pre‑pandemic levels and all new operational activity was fully under control. The volume of work delivered to customers had increased by more than 50 per cent on 2019 levels and this was only predicted to continue to grow year-on-year. Whilst the operation was flourishing, the senior management team began to look to the future and put in place all that is necessary to ensure the continued growth of the business.
RRL is one of three MRO divisions of the group that services the commercial, general, business and military aviation markets, and is planned to continue its development with the expected growth to increase by a further 30 per cent by the end of 2026. In order to achieve this, the business has a number of projects running simultaneously that look at the operation of the workshop, maximise the use of the assets, and assess the various activities it undertakes as it looks at improve business efficiencies. These include efficient use of the Quantum EWS system, bringing in a new MRP system to manage stock as well as further upgrades to some of the workshop equipment.
Projects coming to fruition in 2023 include the installation of a new dye penetrant line that will simplify the crack detection, reduce manual handling and increase the accuracy of the crack detection process. The system will also minimise waste with an improved filtration system and that will enable us to maximise the use of the penetrant.
There will also be a re-introduction of ultrasonic cleaning into the brake processing, as this will improve the cleaning of the brake components such as springs and pistons, remove any black aggregate that has accumulated, and therefore make the inspection and assembly of aircraft brake units a much more efficient process. The introduction of automated cleaning is also being developed for wheels to supplement some of the current processing. This too will better enable the removal of rubber deposits from the hub and ensure smoother processing through NDT and into assembly.
Finally, as we continue through 2023, RRL will grow the sales team across the EMEA region and boost the trading arm of the business.
This will only add to the success of the business and help the group to grow and increase its global footprint.
This feature was first published in MRO Management – April 2023. To read the magazine in full, click here.